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Gluten-Free Vegan Pancakes, Waffles, and Boba Are Hitting Downtown Minneapolis This Month

Vegan baking mix brand Coconut Whisk is opening its first store in Nicollet Mall

Co-founders Bella (Nhi) Lam and Myles Olsen / Photo courtesy of Coconut Whisk

Downtown Minneapolis will get a little more accessible with the addition of Coconut Whisk, a vegan and gluten-free pancake and waffle café.

Slated to open its doors on May 20, the café-slash-retail-shop is the project of owners Bella (Nhi) Lam and Myles Olsen, who are expanding their three-year-old line of baking mixes to launch their very first storefront. Guests can enjoy waffles on a stick reminiscent of long days at the State Fair, and bite-sized pancakes in a variety of fun flavors (think: chocolate drizzle, cereal, and powdered sugar) alongside a range of boba teas.

Lam and Olsen launched Coconut Whisk as a line of vegan baking mixes – all dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and non-GMO – ​during their last semester of college at Minnesota State University, where they won a business competition. They got their start selling the allergen-friendly mixes at farmers’ markets, and quickly expanded their reach to sell at stores around the city, as well as directly from their website.

Three years after Coconut Whisk’s creation, the brick and mortar will open serendipitously during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month. Their newly announced menu also features decadent drinks perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up, like the classic boba mylk tea — Vietnamese coffee made with vegan condensed milk — and fruity fruit tea with a signature “vegan mylk cloud” (a thick and creamy foam that tops drinks and dishes).

Would you just look at those waffles? | Photo courtesy of Coconut Whisk

On top of providing a cheerful hangout on Nicollet Mall, the new café promises its retail space will highlight vegan, gluten-free, BIPOC- and women-owned brands. SH Calligraphy Designs, Bamboo Switch, and Kreations by Kelly Rae are among the first locally made items Coconut Whisk will sell alongside their signature product available to purchase for whipping up at home.

A proud Asian-American, immigrant, and first-generation college graduate, Lam says launching her own business in May feels particularly meaningful.

“It feels extra emotional after such a difficult year for the BIPOC community,” Lam said.

The pair plan to ring in the opening of their first brick-and-mortar store with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 12 p.m. on the first level (suite 120) of the Young Quinlan Building in downtown Minneapolis — bringing new life to the former Haskell’s wine bar address. To continue the celebration, giveaways and specials will be offered to visiting patrons throughout the grand opening weekend. Initial opening hours for the vegan drinks and breakfast items will be Thursday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Coconut Whisk Café will open at 901 Nicollet Mall in Suite 120 of the Young Quinlan Building on Thursday, May 20.

Correction: a previous version of this article stated the address as 911 Nicollet Mall.